Potential concussion biomarkers discovered in circulating blood after brain injury

Concussions are a commonly diagnosed injury in many sports, particularly at college or professional levels. While the diagnosis of a concussion usually depends upon a careful assessment of symptoms, a simple blood test may help to distinguish those who have suffered brain injury from those who have not. Recently, a large study of sports-related concussions in college athletes pointed to a set of proteins that are elevated in circulating blood post-injury (REF), identifying potential biomarkers for rapid, point-of-care identification of a concussion.

Researchers collected blood samples pre- and post-injury from 264 college athletes who suffered a concussion while playing contact sports. Blood levels for three proteins were elevated in post-injury samples (doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.19771). These were glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), neurofilament light chain (NF-L), and ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase-L1 (UCH-L1), which have previously been evaluated as potential biomarkers for traumatic brain injury.

Control subjects included 138 athletes who played contact sports but were not concussed, and 102 athletes who did not suffer injury and played non-contact sports. The biomarker levels for these two groups remained steady throughout the study, further supporting that elevated levels of the above-mentioned proteins are specific to brain injury.

These findings support that blood biomarkers could be used to assess the severity of a brain injury and/or the recovery from a brain injury post-treatment. Synexa Life Science’s Cape Town laboratory has quick access to samples collected from traumatic brain injury patients at a nearby clinical site. At Synexa we have well-established protocols, a growing biomarker panel and world-class technologies to robustly assess markers in patients for use in clinical trials.